Tideland is a movie so vile, pointless, and offensive, that it really ought to come with a warning label. It’s hard to believe that Terry Gilliam—the delectable mind behind Monty Python & The Holy Grail, 12 Monkeys, and Brazil—would want to attach himself to such an atrocious project. For those of you who thought The Brothers Grimm was his fall from grace, brace yourselves for how much farther he can descend.
There are countless misfires to mention in Tideland, but let’s start at the very beginning: Eight-year-old Jeliza-Rose (Silent Hill’s Jodelle Ferland) lives in a run-down house with her bohemian, junkie parents (Jeff Bridges and Jennifer Tilly). While she plays with 4 doll heads propped on her fingers and explores her overly grotesque imagination—a side effect from too many drugs in the womb, perhaps—her mother overdoses and, like a good little girl, she brings needles to her father so he can meet the same fate. Soon after they pick up and move to a deserted family farm on the countryside, he croaks from his “deep sea diving” vacation on the living room chair.
Jeliza-Rose is such a wacky child that she refuses to acknowledge her dad has died, even as flies swirl around his head like planets in orbit. Instead, she dresses him up with lipstick and blonde wigs, and proceeds to run around the house engaging in morbid games with her toys. Gilliam believes, mistakenly, that pointing a camera at a kid playing and shrieking for extended periods of time makes for an entertaining ride. If the solo activities aren’t grating enough—with her father rotting in the next room, no less—he decides to introduce a brain-damaged epileptic twenty-something (Brendan Fletcher) as a new playmate.
There are no stereotypes left unturned here: he runs around stuttering, hitting-his-head, and spewing inane things, like his belief that the local train is a giant shark that he must annihilate with dynamite. His daily adventures with Jeliza-Rose lead to an age-inappropriate, gag-worthy romance, where they decide to become “silly kissers.” There are several shots of them smooching, or coming close to doing more; it can’t get any worse, until his crazy mom (Janet McTeer) flaunts her knack for taxidermy by carving a massive hole into Jeff Bridge’s ribcage. “Someone dies, nothing has to change” she says, while his mangled corpse keeps them company at the dinner table.
Tideland is easily the worst movie of the year and arguably one of the worst movies ever made. There is no story here, just two hours of aimless, sordid events that find time to celebrate both death and pedophilia. This is not a movie—it’s an exercise in pushing boundaries way past the level of suitability and taking bad taste to unholy heights. Someone should ask Gilliam the same question raised in his masterful film The Fisher King: “Did you lose your mind all at once, or was it a slow, gradual process?”